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Raymond Briggs, whose earlier samplings of Mother Goose (Ring-a-Ring O'Roses, Fee Fi Fo Fum) were rooted in the golden English countryside, emerges as an artist of many manners--not all equally good--in this comprehensive collection based on the Opies' versions of the rhymes. Each rhyme, each scene, sometimes each object, has its own picture. Some vignettes are contained within small colored circles or squares on the white ground; others flow freely to the margins; some fill half a page, others fill a whole page, and a few fill both pages. Inventiveness and variety of layout are outstanding: no two double-page spreads are quite alike. Choice of color is equally varied: one page is in rich shades of brick; one is in brilliant magenta, violet, purple, blue; others range the whole spectrum. Technique may be scrubby line or smooth line, flat wash or feathery chiaroscuro. The question of style is tricky: one man's variation may be another man's imitation. Certainly Wishing Commas, p. 194-5, suggests Brian Wildsmith out of Marc Chagall; p. 175 could have come from Ezra Jack Keats; many of the little figures are kin to Sendak's creatures; and If All the World, p. 99, is pop collage. The question of taste is trickier still. Some of the humor is broad, some of the figures are caricatured, some of the scenes recall old cartoons. (One, with two rockets tethered to the moon is downright dreadful; one family portrait has all the togetherness of the Katzenjammer Kids.) This is a very contemporary Mother Goose, not in details of dress or dwelling, but in exploiting modern techniques of drawing, design and reproduction. It's bright and lively, filled with clever details and striking images. It may not be a candidate for the Mother Goose Hall of Fame, but it's eminently usable. If you don't buy it--or can't afford it--do take a look at it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1966
Publisher: Coward-McCann